Hi, my name is Yun Qing and I wear dresses for improv shows.

IRL, I wear dresses ALL THE TIME because

  • I like how dresses hide my fruit-shaped body and make me look normal human-shaped.
  • I like how the wind feels in my hair, specifically the hair on my unshaved legs.
  • I like how I can pretend to be a Whirling Dervish when I turn around dramatically (which happens many times in a day).

But when I first started learning improv, I used to only wear pants and shirt.

Mostly because I’ve been watching a male-dominant cast of improvisers (in real life and on TV) so I wasn’t sure how to wear a dress for improv.

I begrudgingly brought a spare change of clothes for improv practices.

And slowly, I stopped even thinking that a dress could belong on the stage.

The night everything changed

It took only one event to change everything.

showstoppers in singapore

They have architectural props!

U.K.-based musical improv group The Showstoppers was on tour in Singapore in 2015. And I went to the opening night with my teammates from Les Musicables.

I was excited to finally watch live improv that wasn’t performed by someone I’ve watched five times on stage.

And I was excited to see live musical (!) improv.

I went in expecting to be educated on musical improv but instead, I came out with a very different lesson.

Something not at all related to musical improv.

 

A dress? But how?

Right at the start, when the actors went on stage, I was transfixed by one of them–A lady who wore a red dress with a black belt and black tights.

I watched as she danced in the opening number, in her dress.

I watched as she did her scenes and sang, in her dress.

I watched as she played the character of a not-a-damsel, in her dress.

I watched as she did everything, in her dress.

It was a revelation for me. A dress could and did belong on the stage.

After watching that show, I felt bolder. If she could wear a dress and do all that, so could I.

the improv company manila

The debut of my red dress.

A brave choice

Though I overcame some inner struggles to be comfortable being in my own skin (a red dress in this case), I stopped thinking it was anything out of the ordinary and took it for granted.

Then I received a note at an improv party in 2017. The lovely note-giver wrote, “Sounds lame but I noticed you were always wearing dresses and I thought that was very brave.”

It’s not lame at all.

I was also someone who thought that wearing a dress on stage was the bravest act a person could do.

And maybe it is. Maybe being different, or even being yourself, is something brave.

note

Yun Qing, You are/were one of the first four people I saw perform in Singapore + over several times. I was so inspired! Sounds lame but I noticed you were always wearing dresses and I thought that was very brave. =) ♡

 

Not just a choice

Then, for a long while, I thought wearing a dress was just a choice.

It wasn’t until one of my teams brought up the subject of wearing something uniform and “gender neutral” that I realised that my clothing wasn’t just a choice.

For me, ‘gender neutral’ isn’t neutral but masculine-leaning. (In my opinion, gender-neutral involves all of us dressed up in spacesuits.)

I understood where the well-meaning idea came from.

But I have the bad habit of taking things personally so I felt a rage boiling inside: Why can’t I continue wearing dresses and must switch to pants and shirts? Why must a dress be wiped off from the stage?

I finally understood why I wear dresses on stage.

  • It is a statement. A statement that the feminine deserves a space on stage too.
  • It is about dressing in what I’m most comfortable in. And for me, that is a dress.
  • It is about not erasing parts of myself off the stage.

Thankfully the discussion on uniforms concluded with us dressing in something of the same theme, so I still could have some workaround.

stage

The author (left) in a skirt, playing a male character who is sexually harassing the Queen of England. That’s improv!

Photo credit: YWL Photography

If you’re also in a place where you’re uncomfortable with what you’re wearing for the stage or even off stage. Change it up and find something that’s more you.


Further reading: This post was inspired by Victoria Ong’s ‘Why I stopped wearing dresses for improv‘.


Categories: Learning improvShows

Yun Qing

Yun Qing performs improv with The Modern Schemers and musical improv team Les Musicables. She also runs Singapore Improv Calendar and PowerPoint Karaoke nights.

1 Comment

Yun Qing · July 6, 2018 at 5:16 pm

Let me know what you think about clothing in improv.

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